"Fifty Shades of Grey" likely won't overtake Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck's "Frozen" as the highest-grossing female-directed film of all time (the Disney fairy tale probably has that title locked down for some time with its $1.3 billion worldwide box-office tally). But Sam Taylor-Johnson nonetheless made box-office history by having the largest opening weekend for a female director ever, with $81.7 million in ticket sales by Sunday night and an expected $94.4 million by the end of this four-day weekend.
Though the E.L. James adaptation was banned in some countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Kenya, it also made another $158 million in 50-odd countries for a international haul of $245.5 million in just three days. Not too bad for a production with a $40 million budget.
Before turning to directing, Taylor-Johnson had a long career in photography and video art. Her one previous film was "Nowhere Boy," a portrait of John Lennon as a young man, making her the rare exception to the indie-to-blockbuster pipeline that Manohla Dargis has identified as a career launcher for directors like Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer" to the "Spider-Man" reboot) and Colin Trevorrow ("Safety Not Guaranteed" to the "Jurassic Park" reboot) that's all-too-rarely offered to female filmmakers.
Hopefully, Taylor-Johnson won't suffer the same fate as "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke and find herself booted off the mega-successful franchise she launched and replaced by her male colleagues.
The Hollywood Reporter provides a handy top-twelve list of the highest opening box-office weekends from women directors (note that Anne Fletcher, director of the upcoming Reese Witherspoon-Sofia Vergara comedy "Hot Pursuit," and Betty Thomas are the only helmers to appear twice):
Twilight (2008) — $69.6 million (Catherine Hardwicke)
Frozen (2014) — $67.4 million (Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck)
Brave (2012) — $66.3 million (Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009) — $48.9 million (Betty Thomas)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) — $47.7 million (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
Deep Impact (1998) — $41.2 million (Mimi Leder)
The Proposal (2009) — $33.6 million (Anne Fletcher)
What Women Want (2000) — $33.6 million (Nancy Meyers)
Unbroken (2014) — $30.6 million (Angelina Jolie)
Doctor Dolittle (1998) — $29.0 million (Betty Thomas)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) — $24.4 million (Kathryn Bigelow)
27 Dresses (2008) — $23M (Anne Fletcher)